https://www.duolingo.com/SarahBurt8

Funniest Words in English Language

Alternate Title: A rather slow news day in Canada. It's a fun piece to read, though!

https://www.ctvnews.ca/lifestyle/canadian-study-finds-funniest-words-in-english-language-1.4195553

A researcher looking for something a little off-beat to work on, delved into what makes certain English words seem funny.

""We could do surprisingly well at predicting which words people find funny," Westbury said."

"What makes a word funny, he found, is a combination of two factors -- sound and meaning. Using sophisticated statistical analysis of three billion words worth of prose on Google, they found words likely to get a laugh tend to be associated with sex, bodily functions, good times, animals and insults. But that's not enough. They have to sound funny, too. If they've got the "oo" sound, found in 17.4 per cent of the words judged most funny, that's good. So is a hard "kay" or an ending in "le." Double letters are also funny."

A long time ago when I was learning Hungarian, there were "children's phrases" taught to me which were essentially nonsensical combinations of words that were meant to "sound funny" together. At the time I just thought it to be a Magyar humour thing, but clearly there's far more to it.

What words do you find funny? Are there words in other languages that just make you giggle?

1 week ago

51 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/rev._mother

I thought it was interesting that native culture (presumably language) affected what subjects thought were funny. The Iranian subject didn’t think the words were funny, just rude.

Ive recently learned a few words in Afrikaans which I find a bit funny, thanks to @Desert-rose’s course . The language has a lot of ‘K’s, I think. They also create a lot of compound words which are pretty amusing. Upgooi comes to mind, which is literally to up-throw, and means to vomit. Hardloop is to run, and is literally to hard-walk. I just find that funny. Lots of “oo”s obviously, but somthing about sticking words together in this manner is also comical to me.

A funny Irish word I know is smúgairle róin, which is a jellyfish. Its pronounced weird, very lispy. Also it literally means “seal spit”!

Welsh has a word for butterfly, pili-pala which sort of sounds silly and whimsical, like a butterfly.

1 week ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Usagiboy7
Usagiboy7
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I don't know if Dutch people find the word "Alsjeblieft" funny, but, I think it's hilarious. To me, it looks like an onomatopoeia for a "keyboard smash" done by one's head exasperatedly plonking onto a keyboard. (Cool fact, "plonk", along with being a verb, is also an onomatopoeia. So, I've used an onomatopoeia as an onomatopoeia for another onomatopoeia. xD)

1 week ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Yves88541

k's and oo's again, intriguing.

1 week ago

https://www.duolingo.com/SarahBurt8

"Upgooi" is a perfect sounding word for its definition - hahaha it's rather visceral sounding

6 days ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Ronan348350

Smúgairle róin has an even funnier derivation, rev._mother. Rón is a seal (yes, my name means the boy seal) and seals actually eat jellyfish. So the sight of lumps of gooey jellyfish trailing from a seal's mouth must have inspired someone to call the jellyfish 'seal's snot'.

5 days ago

https://www.duolingo.com/WitlessBittern
WitlessBittern
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I'm writing a book series where one of the characters uses a lot of goofy words and expressions. It's a real challenge, trying to shoehorn in at least one jarring experience per paragraph of dialogue. I keep a Google Document of silly words and expressions; every time I hear someone say something ridiculous I whip out my phone and add it to the list.

The objectively funniest words/expressions/pronunciations come from Scotland, with old-timey Americanisms in second place, and Australian/English expressions tied for third. My current favorite word is "ballyhoo."

1 week ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Yves88541

Now the busy bittern is writing books!! And witty ones! :-)

1 week ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Willy304501

Well theres always "boi", and ppl just laugh at everything I say usually. I must have a really unusual speech pattern...

1 week ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Usagiboy7
Usagiboy7
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I was just about to mention "oi".

However, then I read your comment and realized it might have too low a probability to register.

For instance, I'm familiar with "boi" in the context of an African-American lgbtq identity label. It hadn't occurred to me that it might sound humorous to people, as it just sounds like "boy" (that I'm aware at least). And, I don't think "boy" registers high on the sound humor scale. So, it is likely a sound/visual combination, and still be of low consistency for registering as humorous without additional elements. For instance,"boing boing" (an onomatopoeia for a spring bouncing, such as with a pogo stick) sounds funny to me. But this onomatopoeia is also included under the heading of good times. So, I would imagine that drops the probability even further for oi to stand on its own as humorous. I'm starting to gather why "oi" wasn't included in the top results of the study.

After looking into it, I think what produce the humor version of "boi" online is, in that case, the word is used as a "cute-ified" spelling of "boy" with a heavily emphasized BOOOOIIII! pronunciation. These are elements that differ the humor context usage from the lgbtq context usage.

1 week ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Yves88541

I think that's something to do with how you can hear the person say it in a distinctive way in your head. I find moar! pretty amusing for the same reason

1 week ago

https://www.duolingo.com/ISpeakAlien
ISpeakAlien
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but wai cant wee lurn lolcatz an stuffz awn Duolingoez?

1 week ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Usagiboy7
Usagiboy7
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I dunno about "stuffz" but there is a Lolcatz page in the Incubator (Along with a Pirate page and a Zombie page): https://forum.duolingo.com/comment/2447866/Ahhhhh-new-courses-in-the-incubator-Pirate-Zombie-and-Lolcat

The flags that go with those pages: https://forum.duolingo.com/comment/18476542/Hidden-Flags-on-Duolingo

1 week ago

https://www.duolingo.com/D3act1vat3d_Us3r

Wee can haz meem?

6 days ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Ronan348350

My younger son, aged about two, was in the kitchen while I was cooking, and asked what was for dinner. I replied that I was making noodles. He stared at me and slowly repeated noodles? I said the word again. At that, he started staggering around the kitchen laughing. The word was so ridiculous he thought at first I was making it up. For years afterwards, the word would cheer him up when he was upset about something.

5 days ago

https://www.duolingo.com/MissSpells
MissSpells
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Shampoo... you use it to wash your hair, but it contains poo. Also has the double o.

1 week ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Usagiboy7
Usagiboy7
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lol. This makes me think of "shploop". A variant onomatopoeia for shplop which is a variant of plop. It can be used for various things, not least of which it is applicable to the sound of squeezing shampoo out of a bottle and have a glob of shampoo hit the floor. The version "shploop" in fact, can avail itself to a more liquidy-paste (gloop?) connotation than "plop". (Though, both onomatpoeia can be used.)

Also, if anyone knows the term for the consistency of liquidy-paste-like things, please let me know. The word has escaped me. The only things coming to mind for types of shampoo are gel, paste, foam, and dry. None of these are what I'm looking for. And no, it's not gloop either, which I suspect also started out as an onomatopoeia lol. :P (Can anyone tell I'm a fan of onomatopoeia?)

1 week ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Yves88541

colloid?

1 week ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Usagiboy7
Usagiboy7
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Hmm... Since I've never taken chemistry I have no idea if that's correct. It just makes me think of colloidal silver.

6 days ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Kdhy11
Kdhy11
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slurry, slush

6 days ago

https://www.duolingo.com/MarionKurs

I don't think the word shampoo is funny. I speak English as my first language. What about you?

3 days ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Yves88541

If they've got the "oo" sound, found in 17.4 per cent of the words judged most funny, that's good. So is a hard "kay" or an ending in "le." Double letters are also funny.

Interesting post about these "phunniemes". Was surprised they could print one word there starting with the hard /k/ sound :)

The hard "k" and long "oo" are also richly used in rude/cuss words in Slavic languages, which implies there might just be something inherently crude, and therefore funny, about them...

But then you get words like "cool" or the Czech word "kůl" (a wooden post), which seem to meet all the criteria, but aren't funny or rude at all. Although I suppose kůl could potentially be misused...

1 week ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Usagiboy7
Usagiboy7
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Let's steer away from certain topics on here ;)

1 week ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Yves88541

Yup, lesson in Slavic slangology over ;-)

1 week ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Kdhy11
Kdhy11
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One of the most amazing catalogues of scatologues in English is found in John Barth's novel, The Sot-Weed Factor. The novel is set in the 18th century, when a lot of rrrrrrreally cool old words were still in use. Barth himself was an academic (and novelist).

Anyhow, two characters start flinging insults at each other, as in, "You're a **!!!". The exchange of one-liners goes on for three, maybe four pages. It's a tour-de-force (French expression borrowed into English) of insults.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/24835.The_Sot_Weed_Factor

6 days ago

https://www.duolingo.com/SarahBurt8

This looks like a great book to read, thanks for the recommendation!

6 days ago

https://www.duolingo.com/RobertColumbia

The basic Hebrew word for the insect known as a fly is זבוב (spelled Z-B-V-B but pronounced zvoov in modern Israeli Hebrew). It has a delightfully "buzzing" sound to it that makes it easy to remember, and for those with a more classical or literary background, it combines to form the name of the creature בעל זבוב, "Lord of the Flies", traditionally transliterated "Beelzebub".

6 days ago

https://www.duolingo.com/MarionKurs

I speak English as my first language. I still think the word "fork" is funny.

3 days ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Usagiboy7
Usagiboy7
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MarionKurs,
Me too! xD

2 days ago

https://www.duolingo.com/MarionKurs

My full name is Marion Kurszewski. What is your full name?

2 days ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Usagiboy7
Usagiboy7
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Hi again Marion, the internet is not a safe place to put sensitive information. So, I don't post my full name on Duolingo. There is no benefit but there is risk. So, it's just not something I do. You can call me Usagi though. ^_^

2 days ago

https://www.duolingo.com/MarionKurs

What do you mean, "no benefit"? The way I see it, at least now you know my name.

2 days ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Usagiboy7
Usagiboy7
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Names are symbolic communication. On Duolingo, my real name is Usagiboy7. That name is real in that it represents me here. It is not my birthname. But, no one on Duolingo needs my birth name to accomplish anything I would want them to accomplish. Having a name I use elsewhere would not add benefit to them unless they wanted to track me down outside of Duolingo. Which would be creepy and dangerous.

And, since I have no desire to track you down outside of Duolingo, if your screen name were ants-for-flowers, it would be as equally beneficial for me to know, minus the risk for you of others using your full name to track you down outside of Duolingo. (And also it would be a cool screen name as I'm a big fan of both ants and flowers.) The internet is not a safe place. Usagi works just fine for referring to me. ^_^

2 days ago

https://www.duolingo.com/MarionKurs

Usagi, if it says you're a Host Moderator, does that mean you're the guy in charge of this chat?

2 days ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Intwoplaces

pantalones marrones

1 week ago

https://www.duolingo.com/MarionKurs

or, chicharrones (pork rinds) marrones

2 days ago

https://www.duolingo.com/WindyHill10

Other than the website, do you have any other wacky, funny words in the English language?

1 week ago

https://www.duolingo.com/MarionKurs

The word wacky is pretty funny :)

2 days ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Kdhy11
Kdhy11
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I love words that you can really get your teeth into.

My favourite Russian word is ужасный (oo-ZHASS-ny). Means "awful", and you can really lean into it.

My favourite German word is ausgezeichnet. Means "excellent" and shades of that sentiment. Sounds like you're sneezing, but it really is a (IMHO) charming word.

My favourite French word is Quebecois French: la slôche. Means that awfully messy stage of changing seasons or chinooks, when the snow turns to a sloppy, sloggy, wet mash. Doesn't show up in Google Translate, but you can just hear your soaking wet boots sloshing through the slush (which is what anglophile Canadians call the mess). Problem is, in English the "u" is just a schwa, too short and too weak for expressing real feeling. La slôche, however, is like my favourite Russian word -- you can lean into it with feeling.

6 days ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Jan355441
Jan355441
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I am currently learning norwegian and some words sound funny to me, because they are really close to my native language (german), but yet so very differently. For example the word "tallerkenene", which means "the plates". "tallerken" being "plate" and "-ene" meaning "the [plural]". What makes this word funny to me is two things:

  1. since the word already ends with "en" and there's yet another "ene" thrown at the end, on first glance all I see is the "enene" ending, wich in itself looks funny enough already.

  2. "tallerken" sounds so much like the german diminutive for plate: "Tellerchen". So I always picture norwegians having dinner on very small plates and for some reason that is funny to me.

6 days ago

https://www.duolingo.com/llindavagah

Do you like snickerdoodles?

6 days ago

https://www.duolingo.com/smarty842

bro

6 days ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Bobthebuilder694

omg

6 days ago

https://www.duolingo.com/DylanDhadr9

vj

6 days ago

https://www.duolingo.com/AliAOfficial

they did surgery on a grape

1 week ago

https://www.duolingo.com/FrenchDipp

they did surgery on a grape

6 days ago

https://www.duolingo.com/P.E.G.B
P.E.G.B
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THEY DID SURGERY ON A GRAPE

6 days ago

https://www.duolingo.com/P.E.G.B
P.E.G.B
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(ALEXANDER THE GRAPE)

6 days ago

https://www.duolingo.com/LICA98
LICA98
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tho is the funniest

1 week ago
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